This blog is to help and inspire others who may be considering a life change like mine – to develop myself as an ‘academic practitioner’.
Why am I doing this doctorate, what is it like, how is it connecting with my professional life, and where is it taking me? These and other questions exercise me all the time and reflecting on them is all part of the journey.
The blog isn’t meant to be a ‘how to’ guide for doctoral students. So it’s not about, for example, the mechanics of literature reviews – there’s plenty of material out there on that already. But where relevant I will include my own tips for overcoming writer’s block, procrastination, reading and data overload, and all the other challenges which can affect the doctoral student.
Where am I now?
At the start of 2018 I am now two years into the course and about to embark on the Phase 2 doctoral thesis stage, with 25,000 words and a Professional Masters under my belt. The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) is a common pathway to a Professional Doctorate and the first stages are rather like an MBA in microcosym. Once Masters is achieved after two years, it’s into the thesis stage which should be achieved in 2-3 years.
What is a Professional Doctorate?
But what is a Professional Doctorate? Well, the ProfD is equivalent to a PhD but: it’s intended to be combined with work – therefore more rooted in professional practice; it’s more structured; involves more teaching and assessed assignments; and in this particular course, involves studying with a cohort of other scholars. This last is a major attraction to many potential students – not least myself; I didn’t fancy the ‘loneliness of the long distance PhD student’ type scenario. The cohort learning approach is also of great research interest to universities because evidence indicates that the support of peers is nearly if not more important than the supervisory team.
Life changes from chance events
Why study for a Professional Doctorate? At the stage I’d reached in my local government management career it was a pertinent question then in early 2015. So often life changes emerge from chance events – in my case an informal conversation over a pre-conference dinner with an academic. “I love doing research but not sure I want to be an academic” summarised my end whereupon he said quick as a flash, “what you want is a professional doctorate”. What’s that? Definitely my reaction – as this route to a doctorate is still relatively unknown and unpractised – though growing steadily. Some clueing up on the internet, a lot of thinking, and many conversations with husband, friends and my manager during 2015, and then – I was on my way to becoming a student third time round!
A chance too good to pass up
What I didn’t anticipate in early 2015 when the process began, was the seismic shifts that would affect my employer that year – severe budget cuts which resulted in encouragement to staff to take voluntary early release, enhanced packages, and the possibility of redundancies down the line.
Earlier reorganisation had already resulted in the break-up of my team and reduced my role to something akin to an internal consultant. That creative and autonomous role was not without its benefits, I still loved the work, and was an expert in my field. But, my head told me that a return to my previous managerial role was, realistically, just not going to happen. It dawned on me that I could set up as a consultant, combine this with the part-time doctorate AND have more time for voluntary work and promoting causes I care about – in a freer environment; it seemed like a chance too good to pass up.
It wasn’t easy. I felt I was leaving my local government ‘family’, having worked there so long. Moreover, being used to the security of employeeship, it also felt a little scary. But now, two years down the line, I am loving it and feel incredibly fulfilled, motivated and indeed privileged.
Top 6 reasons to study for a ProfD?
There are many reasons to study for a professional doctorate but if I had to settle on the top six for me, these would be my pick:
- Challenge and intellectual development
- Lending a sense of purpose and structure at a time of major life change
- Credibility in my professional and academic fields
- Leaving a legacy
- Developing new networks
- Broadening career options
Presenting my research outline to peers and getting stuck into ever more reading, writing and data gathering – look out for future posts!